How To Get Stretch Goals Right

Stretch Goals For Your Organization

Where you set the gaze, it drives your choice, attitude, self-confidence, skillset and helps to move forward when you fall back- the same happens in the Organization.  

Imagine if Serena Williams only set her goal of being just a good tennis player. She was able to achieve more success and outperform competitors. The reason? She set the bar high by setting stretch goals.

Stretch Goals For Your Organization

A Stretch Goal is an objective that is intentionally designed to be challenging to achieve. It’s used to push or “stretch” the individual beyond their current potential. Setting the goal above the normal standards results in attracting exponential awards, experience, and opportunities. They are established by the leaders to counter complacency and inspire growth in organizational employees and teams. The outcome of this is enhanced employee engagement and performance. 

Leaders who know how to set stretch goals correctly are perceived to be more effective leaders. For such leaders, raising the level of employee engagement and motivation is a cakewalk. 

Generally, these aggressive objectives are established in conjunction with more reasonable objectives. So you provide the employee with the usual goal (which is realistically achievable) and pair it with a stretch goal (the one which makes the employees push themselves). Here’s an example to make the difference crystal clear:

Stretch goal – Reduce the customer response time from 24 hours to 1 hour.

Notice that the stretch goal strives for a way loftier objective than the normal goal. Rest assured, not achieving the stretch goal by no means should be considered a red flag of poor performance. However, it does represent an opportunity to evaluate how to work more effectively to turn the stretch goal into a reality. Moreover, the boost in employee engagement as a result of these stretch goals should not be brushed away. 

Why should I use stretch goals for my organization?

Let’s face it – achieving any kind of goal requires hard work and dedication. This is the reason that only 16% of the people achieve their New Year’s resolution. Yeah, we know you just remembered having one too. The rest of the people drop their’s like hot potatoes. 

Setting stretch goals pushes the organization to complete a challenging task. Being ambitious by default, these goals demand an extraordinary amount of effort and commitment from the teams. They result in “stretching” the current capacities of the teams and prompt them to aspire to a higher level of success. Improvement in employee engagement and performance serves as a cherry on the cake. Need more reasons to use stretch goals for your organization?

Foster productivity and enthusiasm

Setting such ambitious targets uplift the team members to work more efficiently to achieve those targets. It also makes the employees aware of which tasks they should be completing every day. They make the work environment more fast-paced and busy which leads to amplifying the enthusiasm for getting the work done. In addition to this, achieving stretch goals or even getting close to doing so takes the confidence of the team members to a whole new level altogether. Giving such a boost to self-confidence, stretch goals results in increasing both employee engagement and performance. 

Prevent teams from coasting

Let’s revisit the example we gave above. What if your team achieves the assigned goal – they have successfully reduced the customer response time from 24 hours to 12 hours. So..uh..what’s next? Exactly! If this was your team’s sole objective, they now have passive consent to coast. Having checked that box, the team members can now kick up their feet and call that a win! However, having the stretch goal ready in the back pocket ensures that your team knows about the next steps to achieve even more success. It enables them to immediately set their sight on the next target and work towards that. 

Boosts satisfaction

The biggest argument against stretch goals is that it simply primes oneself for disappointment as a result of not achieving such ambitious targets. However, science provides a flipside to this argument. A study discovered that people with highly-ambitious goals experience far greater satisfaction than people with easily attainable ones. Here’s the kicker – these far-reaching people experience more satisfaction even if they achieved similar results as the people with conservative goals. It was not necessarily the result that counted. What mattered was that these people were working towards a more challenging and highly-motivating end goal. 

How to set stretch goals right

Stretch goals are an incredible way to push your organization to excel while simultaneously enabling your employees to think in innovative ways. Although, simply laying down some formidable goals and then expecting everything to fall into place naturally is not enough. If you want to optimize the performance management system of your organization, increase both employee engagement and performance, follow the below-mentioned tips: 

1. Choose the right time

Timing is extremely critical when setting stretch goals. One of the moments is when the organizational teams are experiencing positive momentum and have sky-soaring confidence due to completing a series of projects. During such moments, the employees tend to feel more energetic and hence, can channel their efforts to overcome any challenge thrown at their way. 

2. Be realistic

Even though the sole purpose of stretch goals is to be as ambitious as possible, it is still necessary for the leaders to be a bit realistic. You should initiate by setting a reasonable goal which should be followed by establishing a stretch goal. Employees tend to perform at their best when the stretch goal is a tad more challenging than usual, instead of a completely unrealistic feat. 

3. Allow autonomy for stretch goals 

Being the leader, it is you who will set the stretch goals of your employees. However, they should be allowed to be a part of the planning process while also giving them the autonomy of how they will be achieving these goals. You might be thinking that you have a better view of how to pave the way to success for your teams. Although they might come up with a better idea the healthy pressure of leaving it on to them will enhance employee engagement and performance. 

For numerous leaders, the biggest blunder that leaders commit while setting stretch goals is that they multiply the goals by two. You should understand that the skill of setting stretch goals effectively requires three important skills – Push, Pull, and Problem-solving. 

  • Push 

 For a leader to set stretch goals correctly, there needs to be some push. Setting those goals that will push your employees to achieve something difficult will promote positive engagement. Employees will want to achieve something that seems impossible, and when they do, it’ll be the best feeling of satisfaction they have ever experienced – unlike the one they get by accomplishing the day-to-day goals. 

  • Pull  

The absence of pull will leave the employees feeling like galley slaves working hard to avoid getting punished. Pull refers to energy, inspiration, and excitement. This aspect of pull is even more significant than the push. Leaders should know how to pull by sharing a clear vision and communicating this vision across the entire organization. Such leaders serve as role models and lead from the front. You should be doing everything in your hand to make your employees inspired, energetic, and excited. 

  • Problem solving 

 Problem-solving involves making the employees have a clear understanding of the trends, problems, and opportunities. Stretch goals will need changes in how the work is done, partnerships, and relationships. Leaders should be willing to challenge the standard approaches and hunt for new innovative methods. It is important for them to be aware of outside trends that could hamper or hurt the internal efforts of their employees and teams. The stretch goals should be set by taking all of this into consideration. 

Need more assistance with performance management, employee engagement, and OKR programs? Visit us today! 

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Gaurav Sabharwal


Gaurav is the CEO of JOP (Joy of Performing), an OKR and high-performance enabling platform. With almost two decades of experience in building businesses, he knows what it takes to enable high performance within a team and engage them in the business. He supports organizations globally by becoming their growth partner and helping them build high-performing teams by tackling issues like lack of focus, unclear goals, unaligned teams, lack of funding, no continuous improvement framework, etc. He is a Certified OKR Coach and loves to share helpful resources and address common organizational challenges to help drive team performance. Read More

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